News - Construction News

New digital map of underground pipes and cables on track to grow economy

The emerging digital map of power and broadband cables, gas and water pipes and other underground infrastructure is now available across the whole of England and Wales in a boost to economic growth and public services for people across the country.

The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) will revolutionise the way we install, maintain, operate and repair the pipes and cables buried beneath our feet, growing our economy and reducing disruption to the public.

It has expanded coverage to include the South East, South West, North West, Yorkshire and The Humber and East of England.

NUAR includes data from all of the major energy and water providers, such as Welsh Water, Cadent Gas and UK Power Networks, several major telecommunications companies, including CityFibre and Virgin Media O2, as well as smaller providers of these services, transport organisations and local authorities.

It is estimated to deliver £490 million per year (circa £5 billion over a decade) of economic growth through increased efficiencies in construction and development, less accidental damage to pipes and cables, and reduced disruption to the public and businesses (from extended road closures and congestion), as well as improved workers’ safety.

Measures were also tabled in Parliament yesterday to update existing legislation, taking advantage of opportunities provided by data and technology advancements, to simplify and expedite the process by which this kind of asset data is shared.

These updates will ensure workers have access to up-to-date, comprehensive and standardised data when they need it. This will reduce the time taken for workers to get all the location data they need to carry out safe digging from six days to 60 seconds – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Legislative reforms being sought would also ensure a sustainable service through fair and reasonable charges to asset owners.

Viscount Camrose, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said: “The National Underground Asset Register is on track to transform how the UK manages the pipes and cables beneath the ground. Thanks to government working closely with industry, workers across the whole of England and Wales now have data, at their fingertips, about the infrastructure under our feet.

“The Register is a prime example of the Geospatial Commission and wider government driving innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new better-paid jobs and grow the economy, and I’m delighted that legislative updates are being progressed to support this.”

The Geospatial Commission also published a project update, including sharing information on a discovery project, supported by the Government Office for Technology Transfer, to explore the potential for increased economic growth that could be realised through widening access to the vital national asset, including opportunities for the wider market.

This could include, for example, supporting the rollout of electric vehicle chargepoints, flood risk planning, emergency response or conveyancing.

Alexandra Notay, Independent Commissioner, Geospatial Commission said: “It is fantastic to see the progress being made on delivering the core ‘safe dig’ use case that NUAR is intended to meet, and I am very proud of the team at the Geospatial Commission for delivering this collaborative project for and with a wide range of industry stakeholders.

“The supportive statements from users in the project update is a testament to the value that NUAR is already bringing to those who manage our underground assets.

“However, I am particularly excited to see work commence on exploring the potential benefits that NUAR could bring to other users, especially in the property sector. I believe that NUAR could enable huge amounts of innovation in construction, development and operations across the real estate spectrum – supporting better decisions being made more quickly.”

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